Secretion of the human T cell leukemia virus type I transactivator protein tax

Timothy Alefantis, Kate Mostoller, Pooja Jain, Edward Harhaj, Christian Grant, Brian Wigdahl

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Human T cell leukemia virus type I (HTLV-I) is the etiologic agent of adult T cell leukemia and HTLV-I-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis. The HTLV-I protein Tax is well known as a transcriptional transactivator and inducer of cellular transformation. However, it is also known that extracellular Tax induces the production and release of cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor-α and interleukin-6, which have adverse effects on cells of the central nervous system. The cellular process by which Tax exits the cell into the extracellular environment is currently unknown. In most cell types, Tax has been shown to localize primarily to the nucleus. However, Tax has also been found to accumulate in the cytoplasm. The results contained herein begin to characterize the process of Tax secretion from the cell. Specifically, cytoplasmic Tax was demonstrated to localize to organelles associated with the cellular secretory process including the endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi complex. Additionally, it was demonstrated that full-length Tax was secreted from both baby hamster kidney cells and a human kidney tumor cell line, suggesting that Tax enters the secretory pathway in a leaderless manner. Tax secretion was partially inhibited by brefeldin A, suggesting that Tax migrated from the endoplasmic reticulum to the Golgi complex. In addition, combined treatment of Tax-transfected BHK-21 cells with phorbol myristate acetate and ionomycin resulted in a small increase in the amount of Tax secreted, suggesting that a fraction of cytoplasmic Tax was present in the regulated secretory pathway. These studies begin to provide a link between Tax localization to the cytoplasm, the detection of Tax in the extracellular environment, its possible role as an extracellular effector molecule, and a potential role in neurodegenerative disease associated with HTLV-I infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17353-17362
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number17
StatePublished - Apr 29 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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